For the first time in 14 years, an office tower is going up in Chicago without already having a raft of tenants lined up.
Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Hines, Ivanhoe Cambridge, and Chicago’s own Larry Levy are moving forward with their new Fulton River District skyscraper at 444 West Lake Street called River Point.
We wrote about this building at least as far back as 2008 when we heard it was going to be scaled back. Now that the tower is closer to fruition we know by how much — 45 stories, instead of the 52 stories, and down to 900,000 square feet instead of 1.2 million as originally planned. But if the drawing published by Crain’s is the revised Pickard Chilton Architects design, it remains is largely the same.
The best part of this plan is that, unlike most other new downtown towers, this one creates a public space.
“At the tower’s base, enlivened by shops and restaurants, a 1.5-acre, terraced public park on the riverfront provides a welcome amenity for the West Loop neighborhood. This new civic space, with water features and seating, joins others in encouraging pedestrian activity along downtown Chicago’s unique riverfront.” -Pickard Chilton web site
It should be noted that the developers aren’t creating this public area entirely out of goodwill. Any new development along the river is required by city ordinance to contribute to the river walk. Also, creating a grand space gives the developers an extra selling point, and helps contribute to the building’s iconic status.
Still, it’s better than what we’ve seen lately. At one public meeting last year a local architect was asked what his building would contribute to the community. He responded with a blank stare like he didn’t understand the question. When the questioner tried to clarify by suggesting it could have a public plaza or benches or something, he acted like they told him aliens just landed in his underpants. Not all architects are good at thinking about context and how a property will be used. They sometimes focus too much on the building, and forget the people who will use it.